The West Coast National Park is known more for its bird life than its wildlife (mammals). The vegetation here is thick and therefore it is difficult to see many of the mammals of the park. In our three days at the park, we only saw the Rock Hyrax (Rock Dassie, Rock Rabbit), Bontebok, Steenbok, and Eland. The Eland was a new species for us, so we felt fortunate to see several of them. I think we might have even missed seeing those if someone else hadn’t stopped alongside the road to view them. We spent a total of three days in the park. Our first day we had overcast skies and some light rain (more like a mist).
The second day we visited we had sunny, blue skies. What a difference. I thought that since the first day was Sunday by Monday everyone would have left and gone home – wrong. Spring break here. Lots of people came out to enjoy the sights and sounds of the park.
Bird Hides and Wildlife Signs
West Coast National Park has five bird hides (bird blinds) and we went to all five at least one. My favorite is the Seeberg Bird Hide. That may be due to the fact we were there when the water levels were at their optimum. One of the hides hasn’t been used in some time. You have to take a 20 minute walk to the hide so I don’t think many people go, even birders. The hide is in disrepair, looked like snake haven, and the bird life was minimal – might be a timing issue again as the tide was going out. Still it was nice to get in a short hike. As I said before, we’ve done a lot of car birding – birding from the confines of our car.
I really do like this park due to its proximity to water which brings in many waterbirds. During low tide there were a lot of shorebirds feeding – new ones for us like the Curlew Sandpiper (hundreds), Little Stint, White-fronted Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Kittlitz’s Plover. I do love shorebirds. My bird court to date is 340 species observed and identified (ha ha ha) in South Africa. I suspect of that total, I have already seen 20-30 of those species in my other travels, so lots of life birds.
On the third day at the park, we traveled to a picnic area to see what wildlife we could observe. Not much. The vegetation is very thick. In a few areas where the vegetation was thinner we did see a Bontebok and a Steenbok. We were hoping to see Zebras, which can be found in the park, but no luck. When we were returning to the park entrance, Jack saw a snake in the road. He thought it was dead. We stopped to check it out and found that the snake was alive, just warming itself. We then watched as a Pied Crow come flying in and attacked the snake, skillfully avoiding the snake lunges. We thought it killed the snake, since it was munching on the snake – pulling out its innards. After a few bites the crow left for good. We got near the snake (while still in our car) and I noticed it moving, so not sure if alive or not.
Reptiles and Mammals
We stayed at a guesthouse in Langebaan. This area is a resort community of sorts. All the houses are constructed in a Mediterranean design. I like the style, and being it is on a huge bay it fits. Great views and nesting African Oystercatchers on the beach and Cape Gannets flying just off the shoreline. Pretty sweet. If you ever make it this way consider staying at Perle of Paradise. The owners – Jolene and Paul – are very gracious hosts. We were treated like family.
Another day we went to check out Cape Gannets on an island near Saldanha, which is located close to Langebaan. You actually enter a military area to get to the nature reserve. We did a nice hike, checking out the birds, mammals (Springbok and Steenbok), the dead whale (at least that is what we think it was – awfully big to be anything else), and just enjoying the scenery.
The Nature Reserve
Other Wildlife and Interesting Tidbits
From there we went to the Rocher Pan Nature Reserve. This area I really loved. It is near the ocean, you have an ephemeral waterbody (pan), fynbos vegetation, and lots of birds. The nature reserve had three different hides from which we could check out the birds using the pan. We did get two new life birds here – Cape Teal and Little Bittern. The only way we found the bittern was checking out the cute South African Shelduck chicks. Timing is everything.
I hated to leave this area. I could easily spend a couple weeks here checking out the area and its bird life. But, we must continue onwards as we get ready to take our first bird tour to Victoria Falls (in Zambia), Okavango Delta (just barely – drats), and Namibia. This is an 18-day tour but we are headed to Livingstone, Zambia two days early to check out the town and the falls. Our days will be long so I do not intend to post a blog about this portion of our trip until we return to South Africa at the end of the month. Plus we won’t always have internet services.
Until then – IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD